Prospering as a farming community for decades, shortly after the War of 1812 two men named Edward Bullock and William Hall organized plans to build a village along the river, mere yards from the spot of the original fort. Bullock and Hall decided to name the village Perryville in honor of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry, hero of the naval battle on Lake Erie. In the late 1830s, a line of buildings built next to the Chaplin River, formed the basis of the village of Perryville. Now called "Merchants' Row," these buildings still stand today.
The early nineteenth century brought a revised interest in classical education for the small town. Many institutions of higher learning, mainly consisting of all-women's colleges, were established, including the Ewing Institute, the Elmwood Academy, and Harmonia College. At least one of Harmonia College's graduates achieved national prominence--Carrie Nation, the national temperance leader, boarded at the Karrick-Parks house while living in Perryville. As Nation "cleaned out" a number of local spots, it is believed that Perryville became the first location in the United States to exercise Local Option laws.
In October, 1862, the fields west of town were the site of the Battle of Perryville, an important encounter in the American Civil War that ended the Kentucky Campaign of Confederate generals Braxton Bragg and Edmund Kirby Smith. The battleground of the Battle of Perryville is preserved as a state park, and is the site of an American Civil War reenactment of the battle every year.
In 1961, Perryville and the surrounding area was made part of a National Historic Landmark area. In 1973, the entire town of Perryville, because of the contribution the village has made toward American history, was put on the National Register of Historic Places.
There were 348 households out of which 27.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 44.8% were married couples living together, 15.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 36.5% were non-families. 35.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 21.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.19 and the average family size was 2.81.
In the city the population was spread out with 24.1% under the age of 18, 5.8% from 18 to 24, 26.9% from 25 to 44, 22.0% from 45 to 64, and 21.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39 years. For every 100 females there were 79.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 74.4 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $28,594, and the median income for a family was $36,042. Males had a median income of $30,250 versus $25,938 for females. The per capita income for the city was $16,202. About 11.7% of families and 15.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 19.3% of those under age 18 and 13.4% of those age 65 or over.